The road toughens here – #7 UMD at #6 Miami
Starting with this weekend, things are about to get real for the 6th ranked Miami RedHawks over the course of the regular season’s final three weekends.
This weekend, Miami (18-9-1, 11-6-1-1 t1st NCHC) faces #7 Minnesota-Duluth (18-11-1, 10-7-1-0 4th NCHC) in Oxford. Earlier this season, the schools split a series in Duluth playing two tight one-goal games with Miami winning the first night 3-2 and dropping the finale 4-3.
Last Time We Met
The series over Halloween weekend was a fright-fest for special teams.
On Friday, Miami netted two powerplay goals getting the game-winner from Sean Kuraly in the third period, who has nine such tallies this year, good enough for second nationally (Austin Ortega of Omaha has 10). While on Saturday, Miami erased a 3-1 deficit but came up short as UMD got the game-winner on their second powerplay tally of the night in the third period.
Blake Coleman had three goals that weekend (including a penalty shot tally) and was clearly the best player on the ice. He’ll have to be again if Miami is to get a win or two this weekend.
Offensively, the Bulldogs are led by forwards Alex Iafallo (7-16-23) and Dominic Toninato (14-8-22). While not as dynamic as Miami’s top forwards, they get the job done. Both UMD and Miami have four players with 21 points or more, but Miami can run out more top end goal scorers. UMD has just one player with 10 or more goals (Toninato) while Miami has four who have notched at least 10 showing the scoring depth the RedHawks possess.
Defensive, UMD is a rugged group led by hard-hitting Carson Soucy and Andy Wellinski who adds a scoring touch from the blueline with seven goals on the year. In net, freshman Kasimir Kaskisuo has played 83% of the minutes in the blue paint compiling a 15-9-1 record with a solid 2.31 and .911 slash line.
For Miami, I’d expect both Crash Cousins to be in the lineup to counter UMD’s physicality and I suspect we’ll see Jay Williams tonight for certain. Because he played both games in Colorado Springs last weekend, it’s reasonable to believe Miami head coach Enrico Blasi has selected Williams as the #1 ‘tender for the reminder of the season. Unless Williams plays poorly or is injured, I’m willing to bet he’ll be in there on Saturday as well.
This will be the just the sixth and seventh all-time meetings between the schools (UMD leads 3-2). Expect a low scoring weekend with Miami netting just five goals last weekend at Colorado College and the defensive responsibility with which UMD plays. If Miami could make the weekend an up-and-down track meet, it would favor the RedHawks with their team speed and skill up front.
As with many of these high-profile NCHC weekends this year, I’ll pick a split.
Tonight’s contest starts at 7:35 PM and Saturday’s finale at 7:05 PM. Greg Waddell will have the call for both games which be heard at MURedHawks.com and over the air on 1450 AM and 1490 AM. Additionally, both contests are televised on Time Warner Cable (Ch. 311 & 1311) and Saturday’s game will also air on Fox College Sports (DirecTV Ch. 608, Time Warner Ch. 319).
Around the League
#1 North Dakota at Western Michigan – The Broncos can help Miami with a victory or two this weekend over the nation’s top ranked team.
#5 Omaha at St. Cloud State – Ditto for the Huskies. Wins over the Mavericks will help Miami’s cause in the NCHC standings.
#9 Denver at/vs. Colorado College – The Front Range rivals conclude the season’s battle for the Gold Pan with a home-and-home. Should the Tigers find a way to get a win in this rivalry series, it would help Miami dramatically in their effort to secure home ice in the NCHC playoffs.
From the League Office
Omaha sophomore forward Austin Ortega scored his 10th game-winning goal of the season last Saturday, which leads the NCAA and ties the NCAA single-season record, last set in 2002 by New Hampshire’s Colin Hemingway. Ortega is one of eight players to tally 10 game-winners in a season. Miami junior forward Sean Kuraly is second
in the country with nine game-winners this season, just one away from tying the record also.
In a battle of top-seven teams, No. 7/7 Minnesota Duluth travels to face No. 6/6 Miami. Expect a lot of shots to be fired as Miami and UMD rank first and second, respectively, among NCHC schools in shots for (34.46 /33.53), shots against (25.14/25.93) and shot margin (+9.32/+7.60). The two teams are third and fourth nationally in terms of shot margin as well.
NCHC teams scored two short-handed goals last weekend and now have three of the top 12 teams nationally in short-handed goals. No. 1/1 North Dakota leads the NCAA with nine short-handed tallies, while UMD is tied for second with seven shorties and Miami is tied for seventh with five. The NCHC has six players with two short-handed goals this season, which is among 27 players nationally tied for the NCAA lead with two short-handed goals. Four of the six play for UND while Miami and UMD have one each.